Ouachita National Recreation Trail: Every Hiker’s Dream Trail

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Quachita TrailThe Ouachita National Recreation Trail is a 223-mile continuous hiking trail through the beautiful Ouachita Mountains that extends to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Oklahoma is home for 46 miles of the trail while the other 177 miles is covered by Arkansas.

The trail begins at the main center and then around 2.5 miles of easy walking through the park before you actually start hiking up the mountain which will lead you to end in Southeast Oklahoma. Hikers will encounter upland forest and rocky hillsides with spectacular view of the forest and mountain.

Basically, this is a hiking and backpacking trail, but mountain biking is possible on roughly 2/3 of the trail. If you prefer bringing your mountain bike, you should check out the segments open to mountain bikes which would be at the western terminus at the Talimena State Park going through the Big Cedar trailhead on US Highway 259.

Quick Facts
The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is enormous, but the trail is very forgivable even for first-time hikers. It is a fact that most people who have traversed this trail would do it all over again in a heartbeat given the chance to do so. The trail is very well maintained. You can even find shelters with picnic tables where you can take a rest, grab some quick bites, and simply enjoy everything around you.

Here are some quick facts about the Ouachita National Recreation Trail you might want to know before starting your adventure:

  • Trail’s western end is at Talimena State Park in Southeast Oklahoma.
  • Trail’s eastern end is at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Natural Steps in Central Arkansas.
  • First 192 miles or 309 km is covered by Ouachita National Recreation Trail.
  • The last 31 miles or 50 km is maintained by the Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
  • Throughout the trail, you will pass eight counties of Arkansas namely Pulaski, Perry, Saline, Garland, Montgomery, Yell, Scott, and Polk and Le Flore County in Oklahoma.
  • The two wilderness areas in this trail are Flatside Wilderness Area and Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness Area.
  • Highest point of the trail is at 2,610 feet on Rich Mountain while lowest point is at 270 feet right at the entrance of the trail.
  • Best time to go on hiking on the Ouachita National Recreation Trail is during early spring and late autumn.

    Other Points of Interest
    The hike through the Ouachita National Recreation Trail on its own is magnificent enough. The scenery is spectacular and it will not just provide you time away from all the technology but time to get in touch with nature once again. Here are some of the famous recreation areas to check out during your hiking adventure:

    Horsethief Springs Picnic Area
    Horsethief Springs is actually a trail in itself and in fact, is one of the most beautiful trails in Ouachita National Recreation Trail. Today, this is a popular picnic site as it is located in a beautiful section of the Talimena Scenic Drive.

    Winding Stair Mountain Recreation Area
    This lies mostly in LeFlore County and offers diverse hiking opportunities. Hikers can also try out fishing, camping, hunting, and even hang-gliding.

    Queen Wilhelmina State Park
    As of writing, the Queen Wilhelmina State Park is closed for renovation and will soon be reopened by either late 2014 or early 2015. However, the campground and trails remain open for backpackers and hikers. Expect breathtaking panoramic scenery once you reach this point at Talimena Scenic Drive.

    Big Brushy Recreation Area
    The opportunities that open up here are loop trail hiking and biking anywhere from 3 to 12 miles long. Expect to see gorgeous waterfalls, geologic formations, flowing streams, and quiet woodlands once you reach this point. This trail, however, is for hikers only and not mountain bikes.

    Iron Springs Recreation Area
    This recreation area is for day use only where hikers can find three shelters, toilet, and the accessible walkway to the historic springs.

    Lake Sylvia Recreation Area
    This provides a woodsy retreat for tired hikers with a placid 18-acre lake. This was originally known as the Creek Dam Area but now the campgrounds and swimming area are open except during winter.

    For more hiking opportunities in Oklahoma, check out these Oklahoma Lakes that also have hiking trails.

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